Time to check out the first round of the draft and its potential impact on the Browns.
No question the Browns need help in way too many areas for the upcoming lottery to have a significant impact on the 2011 season. If, that is, there is a 2011 season.
One thing is certain: If Tom Heckert Jr. drafts as well this season as he did last season, brighter days are ahead for Browns fans.
The general manager, who helped Andy Reid turn the Philadelphia Eagles into a perennial contender, came up with two starting defensive backs and a starting quarterback last year with the jury still out on a running back and guard. Not a bad start at all.
There is no question he is a solid talent evaluator, something the Browns haven’t had since . . . well . . . since I can’t remember when. He is much better at evaluating talent than his boss, Mike Holmgren, who has proven he is a much better coach than GM.
Holmgren can help new coach Pat Shurmur in ways Heckert can’t. But if the club president devotes more time to his head coach than the ordinary president, he hired the wrong man.
But I digress.
This is about the draft, more specifically the first rounds. The Browns own two of the first 37 picks in the college lottery and it’s incumbent upon Heckert to make it two straight years in the bull’s-eye department.
So what do the Browns need most? Two correct answers. A game-changing wide receiver and immediate help on a defensive line bereft of bodies now that the club has switched to a 4-3 scheme.
Several names pop into focus in both areas and one of those names will be available when National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell places the Browns on the clock with pick number 6.
The draftophiles know them well. A. J.Green and Julio Jones, a couple of Southeastern Conference standouts, are head and shoulders better than any other wide receiver. Along the defensive line, there are Da’Quan Bowers, Nick Fairley, Marcell Dareus, Robert Quinn and Ryan Kerrigan. Dareus, Bowers, Quinn and Kerrigan are ends and that’s where the Browns need help the most along the defensive front.
The Cleveland secondary needs help in the form of quarterback pressure. That pressure must come from the defensive ends in the 4-3. The 3-4 was an abysmal failure in that regard under Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini.
So where does Heckert go? Which does he fix first? An offense that was the second lowest in scoring in the NFL last season? Or a defense that wasn’t that bad for the first 12 games then wore out because of that sad offense?
Conventional wisdom says defense wins games. But what if someone like Green somehow slips to the Browns at 6? How can Heckert pass up a player who caught just about everything thrown his way at Georgia and who can help Colt McCoy ease into his transition as a West Coast offense quarterback?
If Green and, say. Fairley or Dareus are there, too, where does he go? Is it a win-win situation? Does he go with the No. 1 wideout or the second- or third-best defensive lineman?
Easy. You go with the best at his position. Besides, in this case, the talent at wide receiver in this draft is not nearly as deep as the defensive line.
Now if Green is snapped up before Heckert can make his move, that brings into play a wild card heretofore unmentioned. Louisiana State cornerback Patrick Peterson, the second-best player in this draft after Green, would look great in a Cleveland uniform.
Picture Joe Haden at one corner on one side of the field and Peterson at the other and visions of Frank Minnifield and Hanford Dixon dance in my head. More than a generation ago, these two formed unquestionably the best cornerback tandem in the NFL.
They were fearless despite working with a pass rush that made their jobs that much more difficult.
Now if Green and Peterson are not on the board for Heckert, the defensive line selection becomes a no-brainer.
Somehow, though, I believe one will be there because some team in the top five is going to make a mistake and draft quarterback Cam Newton. If I’m wrong and both are gone, the GM just might decide he can trade down, pick up an extra high pick and still pick up a quality defensive lineman.
In the second round, Heckert would do well to find Joe Thomas a bookend tackle on the right side of the offensive line. If Gabe Carimi, who succeeded Thomas at Wisconsin, somehow sneaks through, he'd be a perfect fit.
It all makes for a good guessing game the closer we get to the draft. That’s what make the annual lottery the fascinating event it has become.